Pretty Body, Ugly Heart

Whether it is taking up running or biking or going to the gym, a few people who start those some sort of fitness routine to lose weight or become fitter at some point decide to take the personal challenge of entering a competition. For those that take up running, they may decide to take their training to the next level and enter a marathon. For those who go to the gym, competitions can be powerlifting meets, CrossFit competitions, or something in the physique realm. In the physique world, the largest amateur organization in the US is the NPC. For women competitors, they have a number of divisions to choose from: fitness, bikini, figure, physique, and bodybuilding. Most women competitors end up choosing to compete in bikini, figure, or physique. The kind of conditioning (leanness, muscle detail) required is based on which division they compete in.

This week, the NPC Texas organization posted on their facebook page a picture of a woman who competed in a show this month in the McAllen.


This generated a lot of comments; some of the comments were particularly ugly about her not belonging there – that she wasted her time and money, wasted the time of judges, etc. As indicated by the text with the post, there is a back story. Apparently, this lady, Jennifer, lost a huge amount of weight through hard work and diet and decided to enter a novice bikini contest as a goal, gain experience, and learn from that to do better next year. She did not go into it expecting to win, but rather to accomplish an intermediate goal on her fitness journey.

This is where sometimes a small minority of people make the fitness industry ugly. If someone was obese and lost weight by running or jogging and decided to enter their first marathon – with no expectation of winning it – all the runners would be totally supportive. Most would likely find it inspiring and awesome someone worked that hard to even be able to attempt a marathon. There would not be fellow runners complaining or putting down someone entering an amateur race with low odds of winning. It is sad a few in the fitness industry lack that viewpoint.

I could understand the criticism if she entered a women’s physique or bodybuilding competition. The criteria and rules require an extreme level of conditioning – minimal bodyfat, some amount of muscle size and definition, etc. There is no excuse for someone entering that kind of competition to show up without that kind of conditioning – that is being selfish and wasting the time of judges and fellow competitors. However, she did not enter one of those divisions. She entered a novice bikini division that has no criteria in the rules that define any level of conditioning. The division was created for women who do not want to go to an extreme “ripped” physique. Per the rules, the only criteria for bikini is the following (

“Judges will be scoring competitors using the following criteria:

  • Balance and Shape
  • Overall physical appearance including complexion, skin tone, poise and overall presentation.”

So, there is nothing in the rules that she is breaking. As for wasting the time of the judges, one NPC judge replied to one of the negative commenters:

“She choose [sic] to compete to celebrate a goal. Why is it necessary for you to judge her competition. I am a judge…didn’t waste my time. I see many thousands of people compete each year with stories that are great. … it’s about this wouman who wanted to celebrate her obtaining a goals. [sic] Pursue your dreams.”

(An aside: I do feel for the bikini competitors as we have a number of them at the gym I train at. Because the criteria is so broad, competitors competing in back-to-back shows can have wildly different placings because some judges reward one kind of look – i.e., more lean – and others another – i.e. a more softer look. It must be maddening to not know in advance what kind of look any particular group of judges at any particular show will prefer. It makes all the work dieting and exercising somewhat of crap shoot).

It is also interesting that this generated over 70 comments so far. However, when the NPC Texas facebook account posted other pictures the day of the show, one showing a male bodybuilding competitor in a line up with quite a bit of fat in his midsection and nowhere close to conditioning needed to meet the criteria for that division, only a handful of comments were generated.

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